1. William Halloway – One of the main protagonists of the novel. Will is thirteen years old and has white-blonde hair and eyes “as clear as summer rain.” Although very obedient, Will is also sweet, sensitive, and does not want to grow up because he thoroughly enjoys being young. He always finds the right thing to do, even in the most trivial of situations. Will has an active role in fighting against the carnival’s evil powers. 2. James “Jim” Nightshade – Best friend of Will Halloway. A rash boy, who acts a foil to Will’s character, in that he thinks less and acts quickly in his actions. He has wild, tangled chestnut brown hair and grass-colored eyes. Jim yearns to become older, making him vulnerable to the carnival’s many temptations, but is ultimately saved by Will’s friendship.
3. Charles Halloway – Father of William. He is the dynamic character of the novel, as in the beginning he is kind, yet does not care to relate to his son for fear that age shall always get in the way. However, after gaining courage from fighting off the carnival’s evils, he gains admiration, love and friendship from his son. 4. Mr. Dark – Major protagonist. A sinister man who bears tattoos all over his body, one for each person successfully tempted into joining the carnival. Mr. Dark initially holds sway over the other main characters, but his power weakens when Charles uses positive emotions against him, something he cannot comprehend or withstand. Dark’s background is a mystery, although he refers to being raised in a strict religious upbringing.
1. J. C. Cooger – Dark’s partner in running the carnival, Mr. Cooger is a fierce, red-headed man who is first seen repairing the carousel. He catches and terrifies Will and Jim until Mr. Dark intervenes. Like Mr. Dark, his origins are unknown. 2. The Dust Witch – A blind soothsayer with a sixth sense and the ability to perform many feats of magic, the Witch is portrayed as one of the carnival’s most dangerous members. However, her increased sensitivity to the presence and emotions of other people makes her vulnerable to positive feelings. 3. Miss Foley – A fifty-year-old schoolteacher of Will and Jim. Much like the other victims of the carnival, Miss Foley wished to become young and beautiful again. However, when she got her wish, she became frightened because she went blind.
4. The Skeleton – An extremely thin, skeleton-like creature who is one of the more frequently appearing freaks. Like all of the other freaks, he once desired to be younger and was eventually tricked into joining the carnival. The Skeleton appears to be one of the more loyal freaks as, near the book’s end, he takes the time to carry the recently deceased and youth Mr. Dark with him after all the other freaks ran away. 5. Tom Fury/Dwarf – A lightning rod salesman who is turned into an insane dwarf by the carnival and is recruited into it, with no memories of his former life.
Main Setting: The novel is set in Green Town, Illinois during October 23 – October 25. The year is not listed, but it seems probable that it takes place in the 1950’s era. Several things might lead a reader to conclude this fact, including the simple freedoms the boys enjoy, the respect the boys offer to adults, and the small town atmosphere that, for the most part, represents an atmosphere that is not largely present in American society today. The fact that text is set in the fall season allows readers to feel the enhanced suspenseful mood Bradbury pens into the entire story with Halloween being involved in the storyline. The characters birth dates are significant in that they are before or after Halloween.
Two boys named Will and James encounter a strange lightning rod salesman, while they’re just on the verge of their fourteenth birthdays, who says a storm is coming their way. Later, the townsfolk also begin to notice a certain shift of the atmosphere, as if there’s something very different in the air. The boys learn about the carnival coming to town and get excited, while Will’s father has a bad feeling about it. When the ominous Dark Man arrives, the boys are both terrified yet thrilled.
It seems to be just another carnival at first, but it’s not before long that the forces of darkness themselves are manifesting from the haunting melodies of the carousel-which can change your age depending on which way you ride it-and the glaring Mirror Maze. With his collection of freaks and oddities, such as the Fat Man, Mr. Electro, and the blind Dust Witch, Dark intends to take control of the town and seize more innocent souls to damn. It’s up to Will and James to save their family, friends and themselves because “something wicked this way comes.”
* Boys – Young boys run where they will and act upon passing fancies. Things occur unexpectedly and pop up out of nowhere, just like the young boys who run everywhere and can be anywhere at any given moment. The unpredictability of young boys is matched only by that of life. Part of the reason that Jim and Will may have been the ones to figure out the carnival is that, while they did not anticipate it, they move with it. They see it arrive and witness it end, because they move fast enough and far enough to see many things. The other people in the town are a step behind, and they are no match for the carnival. Will’s father, on the other hand, gets in touch with his youthful side just in time to put an end to the carnival. The three run together at the end of the book, just as life in Green Town turns a new page.
* The Evil Carnival – Throughout the book the carnival is associated with nothing but bad deeds and awful events. It is a place of evil run by evil people. The carnival is not a part of the town, so its evil is something beyond the normal evil in man. In fact, its evil may be viewed as the evil that threatens to destroy towns. The carnival is the evil that drives people apart and unites them through fear and manipulation, rather than through freedom and caring. The carnival is the evil that threatens to make all people selfish and greedy, and it must be combated in order to ensure that there will always be communities of people living together in harmony. Sentences on dominate themes:
1. “You’ll live and get hurt,” she said, in the dark. “But when it’s time, tell me. Say goodbye. Otherwise, I might not let you go. Wouldn’t that be terrible, to just grab ahold?” 2. “For the thing it most wanted were hidden in the dark.” – Chapter 34, page 121
1. “Not words, old man,” said Mr. Dark. “Not words in books or words you say but real thoughts, real actions, quick thought, quick action, win the day.” 2. ” . . .If you’re a miserable sinner in one shape, you’re a miserable sinner in another.” 3. “Too late, I found out you can’t wait to become perfect, you’ve got to go out, fall down, and get up with everyone else.” 4. “Sometimes the man who looks happiest in town, with the biggest smile, is the one carrying the biggest load of sin. There are smiles and smiles; learn to tell the dark variety from the light. The seal-barker, the laugh-shouter, half the time he’s covering up. He’s had his fun and he’s guilty. And men do love sin, Will, oh how they love it, never doubt, in all shapes, sizes, colors, and smells.”